Kinston holds off Clinton, advances to third round
Kinston’s Jacel Jacobs hauls in one of his five receptions in Friday’s victory over Clinton. Photo by William ‘Bud’ Hardy / Neuse News
Kinston has a flare for the dramatic this season, but its record remains unblemished.
Demetri Holmes knocked down a pass in the end zone with 24 seconds to play to clinch a 21-13 victory for the Vikings over Clinton Friday in the second round of the NCHSAA 2A state playoffs. Kinston (12-0) picked up its sixth consecutive victory by eight points or less and advances to play Elizabeth City Northeastern in the third round next week.
“We’ve been battle-tested and we’re never down and out,” Vikings coach Ryan Gieselman said. “If you read any of the social media forums, they say we were the worst 11-0 team in the state in the history of high school football. We just told our guys ‘don’t buy into it. We believe in you and if you do what you’re supposed to do, you’re going to win the game on Friday night’.”
After the teams traded three-and-outs to start the contest, the Dark Horses (8-3) went on a 16-play, 84-yard drive, capped off by Knowlydge Evans’ 1-yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal late in the first.
Three plays later, the Vikings struck back with Kieren Hooker finding Jacel Jacobs on a short pass and the receiver doing the rest on a 71-yard touchdown. From there, the teams combined for only five first downs over the next 10 drives before Clinton methodically moved the ball down the field, going 50 yards in 12 plays and finishing with a 4-yard Evans run with 1:19 to go in the third to make the score 13-7.
The Vikings had another quick drive, starting with an 11-yard run from Justin Holloway and followed by three straight Hooker completions, including a 15-yard touchdown to Holmes to put Kinston ahead 14-13 heading into the fourth.
“Coming into the game, we were the underdog,” Hooker said. “We read what people said before the game about how we were going to be beat by 30 — it was motivation for us to play better.”
Clinton used a big kickoff return to start the frame at the 40, but Evans fumbled two plays later. Kinston was able to get the ball to the Dark Horses’ 21 on the ensuing drive, but on fourth down Jairus Thorpe intercepted Hooker and took the ball to the Vikings’ 29. The Dark Horses later faced fourth-and-11 at the 30, trying a double reverse trick pass for the go-ahead score, but Mohamed Kaba overthrew his receiver.
The Vikings took advantage, going 70 yards in seven plays and ending the drive with Justin Holloway’s 9-yard touchdown run with 3:26 left. Holloway rushed for 68 of his team-high 81 yards in the second half.
“(I was) just thinking of everything — trusting my O-line with the blocks, reading them and getting a touchdown,” Holloway said. “It means a lot to make these big plays, making it to the next round and moving on.”
Clinton wasn’t finished, as a 19-yard run by J’daques Wallace on the ensuing drive gave the Dark Horses first-and-goal on the Kinston 5. Two Evans runs sandwiched between an incomplete pass had the ball at the Vikings’ 1 with 24 seconds to play, but the Dark Horses moved back 5 yards due to a false start.
Clinton tried another trick play with Jalen Smith taking a direct snap and pitching it to Kaba for the pass to Evans, but Holmes stepped up with the deflection to end it.
“I was just (thinking) ‘man, this can’t be my last game of the season as a sophomore,’” Holmes said. “I want a ring too for my brothers.”
For Kinston, the focus shifts toward Northeastern, which defeated Wilson Beddingfield 28-0. The Eagles — who are also 12-0 — fell to the Vikings 14-13 in the third round of the 2015 state playoffs. Northeastern will seek revenge, but Gieselman said Kinston will be up for the challenge.
“We’ve played them three years ago (and) we saw them this summer in camp,” Gieselman said. “We’ve got a good idea of what they do and we’re aware of their talent. We’ve got to be able to weather the trip, settle in and play Kinston football.”
KINSTON 21, CLINTON 13
C 7 0 6 0 — 13
K 0 7 7 7 — 21
C — Knowlydge Evans 1 run (Reid Taylor kick), :11
K — Jacel Jacobs 71 pass from Kieren Hooker (Diego Patino kick), 11:43
C — Evans 4 run (run failed), 1:19
K — Demetri Holmes 15 pass from Hooker (Patino kick), :01
K — Justin Holloway 9 run (Patino kick), 3:26
First Downs 13 12
Rushes 55-225 21-124
Passing 3-10-0 10-21-2
Passing Yards 68 213
Total Yards 293 337
Punts 4-27.3 3-29.3
Fumbles 2-2 1-0
Penalties 9-48 5-35
RUSHING — Clinton: Knowlydge Evans 28-122, Jalen Smith 15-54, J’Daques Wallace 11-43, Davion Smith 1-6. Kinston: Justin Holloway 13-81, Kieren Hooker 5-43, Jacel Jacobs 2-11, B.J. Luter 1-minus 11.
PASSING — Clinton: Evans 2-7-0, 43; Smith 1-1-0, 25; Mohamed Kaba 0-2-0, 0. Kinston: Hooker 10-21-2, 213.
RECEIVING — Clinton: Carson Ellis 1-31, Spencer Westerbeek 1-25, Dacota Butler 1-12. Kinston: Jacobs 5-128, Luter 1-29, Cortez White 1-28, Demetri Holmes 1-15, Khari Pitts 2-13.